Cinderella is a familiar story, but what may not be familiar to people is “The Cinderella Complex.” The young girl with blue eyes and blond hair is more than a fairytale. Her story is an illustration of what it means to live with Dependent Personality Disorder, also known as “The Cinderella Complex.” Think about her life. Cinderella complies with her stepsisters’ every whim. She accepts her stepmother’s criticisms without protest. Cinderella even relies upon others to rescue her—her animal friends and fairy Godmother. Then, once she is saved from her life of servitude, she continues to rely upon the prince for her livelihood. These are the primary symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder. Many years ago, it was believed that only women suffered from “The Cinderella Complex,” but now, mental health professionals understand that Dependent Personality Disorder can develop in anyone.
When people have the disorder, they often have an acute desire to please those in authority. This desire is accompanied with low self-esteem and a yearning to be rescued or cared for by another person. The disorder introduces a number of difficulties into a person’s life. Most dramatically, it keeps people from living a self-reliant, unique life. Dependent Personality Disorder is a severe illness, but it is a disease that has treatment options. People with the disorder often learn how to live their own, independent lives.
“Every human has four endowments—self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom…
The power to choose, to respond, to change.”
The therapists at Thriveworks Charlotte have worked with a number of clients who are fighting Dependent Personality Disorder. Independence is possible. With treatment, many people heal from the disorder and learn how to build a self-reliant life.
How Dependent Personality Disorder Evolves
When mental health professionals diagnose Dependent Personality Disorder, they must be aware of how it evolves and develops. Otherwise, certain developmental stages or cultural practices can be mistaken for the disorder. For example, certain cultures practice a respectful deference to elders and authority figures. This is not Dependent Personality Disorder. In the same vein, children and teens rely upon their parent or guardian for meeting some or all of their needs depending upon their age, but this dependency is developmentally appropriate—not a disorder.
What then is Dependent Personality Disorder? The disorder often shows itself when people should be transitioning from adolescence into adulthood. When people have the disorder, they often do not make that transition. That is why the disorder is rarely diagnosed before adulthood. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) gives a full picture of what that dependency looks like.
Symptoms for Dependent Personality Disorder
The disorder affects every aspect of an individual’s life, including their belief system. Two beliefs, in particular, are present and perpetuate the disorder. First, people with the disorder come to believe that they cannot meet their own emotional and physical needs. The second belief is the other side of the same coin: people come to believe that other people must meet their needs. With these two thought patterns deeply ingrained, it can be difficult for people with Dependent Personality Disorder to have mutual relationships. Instead, the friendship eventually turns into a dependent relationship. People with the disorder are often clingy and anxious. They may be overly compliant and agreeable toward other people while being overly critical and denigrating toward themselves.
Dependent Personality Disorder (301.6[F70.7]) has three core symptoms:
- Anxiety when separated from care givers.
- Behavior that is overly deferential.
- A core need for someone to care for them.
In addition, five more of the following signs will be present:
- Feeling discomfort with one’s individuality, independency, and uniqueness.
- Consulting an authority or caregiver before making any choice—seeking out affirmation and guidance for choices that should be made on one’s own.
- Turning over major areas of responsibility within one’s life to someone else (e.g., a parent who pays a child’s bills).
- Fearing abandonment, especially by a caregiver or authority figure.
- Acquiescing to what a caregiver or authority figure thinks or feels in order to secure their continued care.
- When one authoritarian relationship ends, replacing it quickly with another one.
- Difficulty establishing and maintaining mutual relationships where there is give-and-take instead of a one-sided dependence.
- Downplaying one’s thoughts, feelings, preferences, opinions, and perspectives, especially in an attempt to satisfy other people.
It is easy to see how disruptive Dependent Personality Disorder can be. The disorder often causes personal and professional troubles. Because people with the disorder often lack initiative and confidence, they may have difficulty procuring and maintaining employment. Personally, they often have very small social connections and may even limit their relationships to those within their family. Further, the disorder increases an individual’s risk for other mental health disorders.
Scheduling Therapy for Dependent Personality Disorder at Thriveworks Charlotte
“You are constantly invited to be what you are.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Part of the wonder of being an individual is being free to be who you are. When dependency steals someone’s individuality, it is okay to fight back. Dependent Personality Disorder has treatments. If you are ready to seek healing and an independent life, Thriveworks Charlotte is ready to meet with you. When you call our office, your first appointment may be the following day. We accept a variety of insurance plans, and we offer weekend and evening appointments. Call today.